Category Archives: Favorite Quotes

Growing Pains

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My Cocoon

My Cocoon

“nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know
…nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. but what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. if we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. it just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.”

― Pema ChödrönWhen Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

In late November of 2008, I had my first wrist surgery.  When some of the symptoms of my original injury resurfaced, I contacted and revisited my surgeon in April of last year.  During our visit, the x-ray and his examination were inconclusive.  He ordered an MRI and I scheduled a follow-up with him immediately following the test.  On the drive down, I was so busy convincing myself that it was fine; I almost turned around and went home.  There were about a million other things I should be doing and clearly, if he hadn’t been able to recreate the discomfort, it must be all in my head.  I sat in the room with him while he reviewed the results, waiting patiently for him to uneventfully send me on my way.  He was quiet, just a little too long.  He then took a deep breath, told me that there was more tearing, and then proceeded to calmly explain that he would need to operate again.  Giant, fat, hot tears formed in my eyes and began to slide down my cheeks.  Warm weather was fast approaching, we had vacations planned…not to mention the fact that I had just turned 40 in March and I had made such huge strides in my practice.  I had convinced myself that 40 was my year, that I would accomplish all of my goals.  He told me that I could postpone the surgery until after my boys had returned to school in the fall.  So, I began this blog post, 5 years after my first surgery and 7 weeks after my second with one of my two pins still in and my cast still on.  I also began it with every intention of it containing an in-depth and highly technical explanation of how and why it is possible for you to end up in an operating room because of your participation in Yoga.  However, the healing process and the writing process (often times critical to one other) have morphed me and this post into something else entirely.

My biggest question to him: “What am I supposed to tell my students?  How am I supposed to tell them that Yoga is good for them when I am recovering from my second surgery in five years, from an injury I sustained doing Yoga?!”  His answer was something along the lines of: “Now Amy, there are risks of injury with ALL sports.  Runners injure their knees, swimmers injure their shoulders, cyclists break their collar bones…”  And on and on, and so on and so forth.  I have had lengthy discussions with my trusted friends who are Physical Therapists and we are in complete agreement.  There are inherent risks with almost every form of physical activity.  However, the health benefits of moving your body far outweigh those risks.  Yoga is complicated.  It is a science and there is a great deal of learning and self-discovery that takes place as we develop a relationship with ourselves and our practice.

The truth is, accidents happen.  The initial incident was a complete fluke.  All caught up in the collective energy of a three-day intensive, glistening with sweat and inspiration, I slipped and fell.  I completely tore my Scapholunate Ligament and my TFCC was no longer attached to my bone.  Three years into the healing from the first surgery, with my range of motion reasonably restored, I was back at it.  I have always been very strong and athletic.  I was convinced that these qualities would serve me on my mat and that I would be able to accomplish whatever posture that I applied myself to.  I was attempting to “muscle through”.  I  thought that the surgeon had “fixed” the problem.  Except the true problem wasn’t my wrist at all.  It was a multitude of other things that required my attention, energy, and awareness.  As I sit here, many months later, on this damp, dark day, using my warm, jasmine tea to ease the small ache that still lingers in the palm of my left hand; I am attempting to wrap up this blog post (finally) and wrap my head around exactly what it was that this persistent issue/injury had to teach me?  My answers, in no particular order, are these:

    

*  That it is possible for me to have an incredibly strong Yoga practice that doesn’t consist of floating into a handstand in the   middle of the room.  That sometimes the strongest parts of ourselves do not serve us in every moment and in every facet of our lives.  Inviting our ego to dissolve and allowing the softer aspects of ourselves to expand can be profoundly useful.

 

*  There is an incredibly liberating amount of freedom that comes from maintaining a reasonable amount of flexibility in regards to our expectations.

 

*  When I allow this acceptance and understanding to take root and blossom fully, a beautiful spaciousness and grace develops in my life.  It travels from the cells of my body, to the periphery of my skin and beyond the edges of my mat.  This expansiveness benefits my family, my friends, my students, my community, and the world.

 

*  Integrity, peace, continuity, and longevity are my goals for my practice. 

*  Honoring our bodies is an advanced practice.

 

*  The true beauty of a Yoga practice exists in the luminosity that emanates from a body, mind, and spirit dancing in harmony as one.

 

*  That perhaps my job as an instructor isn’t always to help you find the answers but to assist you in discovering the perfect questions.  And I hope you will continue to return to your mat until it has taught you what you need to know.

 

 

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The Space Between

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As the summer season was approaching this year, I found myself unsuccessfully attempting to manage a schedule that was far too full.  I had committed to an unreasonable amount of appointments and items on my “to-do” list.  Having allowed myself and others to develop unrealistic expectations of what I was capable of accomplishing, I felt as though I had no room to breathe or move and I was miserable.  During a particularly Claustrophobic Moment, I thought of Dave Matthew’s Song “The Space Between” and I smiled.

“Love is all we need here
The Space Between
What’s wrong and right
Is where you’ll find me hiding, waiting for you
The Space Between
Your heart and mine
Is the space we’ll fill with time
The Space Between… ” ~ Dave Matthews

I was clearly craving more time and more space between all of the items on my agenda.  I set an intention to consciously schedule “spaces” that were open and recognize that open spaces didn’t necessarily “need” to be filled.

I challenged my students to do the same.  I assigned them homework that involved scheduling “space”, wide-open space, and then filling it with absolutely nothing except for permission to “just be”.  I have taught this theme frequently over the last few weeks.  We have worked on attempting to find a comfortable pause at the end of our exhalations before taking the next inhalation.  We talked about bringing that awareness to our practice and discovering the delightful spaces between the poses.  Developing a natural rhythm in our practice and then taking that off the mat and into our lives.  Creating a rhythm that allows us to slow down and savor our families, our friends, and even our plans.

Just like anything else, this takes practice.  Whether we come to our Yoga Mats or to our Agenda, we are stepping into an opportunity to better our experience.  Each time we do this, our practice and our lives are a beautiful blank canvas.  Color them sparingly, carefully, and leave space for unexpected spontaneity, creativity, and beauty.

Around this same time, I read that the spaces between our thoughts are, ultimately, our entire reality.

It is the space between the notes that makes the music. Without that emptiness, that silence in between, there is no music, only a noise. You too are silent empty space at your center, surrounded by form. To break through that form and discover your very creative nature that is in the center, you must take the time to become silent each day, and enter that rapturous space between your thoughts.” Blaise Pascal

Wow!  I am working on that now too.

Live, Learn, Love

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Motherhood and Yoga have taught me some of life’s most substantial and important lessons.  I am constantly amazed and humbled by how much I learn from my practice and my boys.

I have learned that contentment is, ultimately, about becoming comfortable in and feeling at home in one’s own skin.  In order for this to happen, who you are on the inside has to match who you are on the outside.  When this occurs, the people in your life and your environment more frequently and accurately reflect your inner and beautiful radiance.  This process provides some of our biggest opportunities for growth.

I was once told that Yoga is similar to sculpting, in that, it does not create something which is not already there.  Instead, layers and fragments are carefully and selectively removed in order to reveal the beauty that already exists within.  Yoga and parenting have exemplary and effective ways of eliminating inauthenticity from our character.  Your practice and your children will consistently call you out when you are deviating from your truth.

The real work, the difficult work, happens off of our mats and outside of our picture perfect moments.  Accepting moments of inconsistency and failure can be grueling and intensely challenging.  Forgiving yourself for them and letting go of them, even more so.  We often find these concepts easier to apply to people other than ourselves; our babies, our students, even perfect strangers.  The beauty of practicing these principles is that they are a bit like muscles, in that, the more you use them, the stronger and more effective they become.  The more that you exercise acceptance and forgiveness with others, the easier it becomes to apply them to our own inadequacies and shortcomings.

You learn to embrace your imperfections and begin to appreciate them as your greatest teachers.  You carry on.  You try again in the next moment and the moment after that.  You learn to let go.  Not in spite of the fact that you are gloriously human but exactly because you are.

“I must learn to love the fool in me–the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my fool.”
~Theodore I. Rubin, MD

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“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a

quickening that is translated through you

into action, and because there is only one

of you in all of time, this expression is

unique. And if you block it, it will never

exist through any other medium and it will

be lost. The world will not have it. It is not

your business to determine how good it is

nor how valuable nor how it compares with

other expressions. It is your business to

keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep

the channel open. You have to keep

yourself open and aware to the urges that

motivate you. Keep the channel open. …”

Martha Graham to Agnes Demille

Strength Undefeatable

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“Security is mostly a superstition.

It does not exist in nature nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is

strength undefeatable.”

Helen Keller